The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is many things—a good film not being one of them. But in between non-sensical, neon-soaked action sequences and cliche-ridden superhero movie romance are some surprisingly acceptable moments. Electro’s transformation from bullied to bully is hardly inspired. Ditto Peter Parker’s exploration of his parents’ past. But these oddly (if not completely) engaging storylines belong in a movie that doesn’t so often feel unwatchable.

Spidey’s story picks up right where it left off in this film’s predecessor, the shockingly forgettable The Amazing Spider-Man. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is finishing high school and dating the adorable Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) when he’s not swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper fighting crime in New York City. But the specter of Gwen’s father (Denis Leary) haunts Peter, who feels he must live up to the man’s dying wish: that Peter stay away from Spider-Man.

While Parker dithers, he suits up against Electro (Jamie Foxx) a.k.a. Max Dillon, a awkward but well-meaning electrical engineer who turns blue, electric, vicious, and Spidey-hatin’ after an on-the-job accident. Meanwhile, his childhood friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), has returned home following the death of his father, Oscorp CEO Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper). Harry and Peter hit it off like old chums straight away, but the former has a bit of an axe to grind with the latter’s alter ego.

There’s a little bit of the God-awful Spider-Man 3 in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, at least insofar as the villain parade goes. For a solid 90 minutes of the film’s bloated 140-minute running time, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Jeff Pinkner’s screenplay juggles plates. There’s no sense that confluence is coming, and because this is a post-Avengers superhero movie, one can’t help but wonder if some of this “character development” is merely setting the stages for future Spidey sagas. That’s not entirely untrue, but the progression the film takes in its final third actually makes sense from a character perspective, which is more than one could say about a lot of superhero movies—or big-budget Hollywood movies more generally.

To get there, however, it’s a rough road. The film begins horribly with a generic, totally stakes-free chase that sees Peter trying to save New York, lock up an all-devouring Paul Giamatti, and make it to graduation on time—something he barely does because he takes so much time to rattle off one-liners and, yes, pants his nemesis. With a tone this manic, director Marc Webb seems to be screaming at his audience not to take the movie that follows seriously. And the overly slick failed attempts at humor don’t stop there. Max Dillon uncomfortably bumbles his way down the road to Electro, and Dane DeHaan hams it up something awful.

Technically, the film looks like it cost a few hundred million, but the characters too often get lost in a blur of neon fighting. (I can’t imagine how tough it would be to follow in 3D.) One exception is a confrontation in Times Square, but even that is marred by Hans Zimmer’s surprisingly dreadful, Inception-lite score. And that miscue seems to sum up the film’s problems in a nutshell. On the few occasions when it feels like it’s about to lift off, something brings it crashing back to Earth.

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